You never gave much thought to those afternoons in Mexico, you and your aunt sitting opposite one another, a game board set on a table between yourselves.
It was always scorching hot outside, but without fail every morning, Tia Elena would set up the game for a quick round of scrabble. You always took a fancy to the word game though you got beaten each time by family members-even today.
This morning, you were up earlier than usual, breathing in and out, in and out. Soon, your kids would be tugging on your new green dress, waiting to get on the school bus. Rosalie, your youngest, was up as well, practicing the alphabet in her room. "A, b, c, d..." She recited them over and over until you gently tapped her on the shoulder.
"I think your mail is here my starburst!" Rosalie hugged you fiercely, and jumped in place excitedly.
"Is it really mami? I want to see my grades!" Upon saying this, she returned to her letters and numbers, leaving you to attend to the mail. Always the competitive one, little Rosalie. Nothing in the world could compare to this-nothing in the world.
Standing on your driveway, you saw a group of middle-aged women walking and talking on the sidewalk. Behind them were two boys with big backpacks riding on skateboards to the middle school just a 3 minute walk away. Yes. Today was going to be a good day-you knew it.
The mail was shoved in the back, and you had to stretch your arm to grasp the small bundle of papers. You sifted through bills and magazine ads to find Rosalie's report card along with a white envelope that caught your attention. There was no postal stamp or return address, just the words, "I hope you enjoy my gift." It was definitely junk mail, but a small voice told you to look at the front porch, and you listened.
Sitting on the front porch was a small package, thin, but long. You sat right there on the porch and tore it open right away to find a small game board inside, surprised and confused at the same time. What you had to believe was the truth, and the truth was an old, worn, loved board game. Scrabble.
You waited until Rosalie and Micah left for school to open the envelope, afraid of what it might conceal. You knew what it was in the bottom of your heart, but your hands still shook as you opened the envelope. Only tia could've written this, but she had died 2 years ago. You knew she had died of cancer;you knew this-and refused to attend her funeral.
You shut your eyes and squeezed them tightly. It wasn't fair-for all this time-she couldn't be alive-right? The Scrabble box lay untouched beside you as you slumped on the couch, ready to read Tia Elena's letter.
Hello my dear child. Oh how I have missed our daily conversations and scrabble games. No my dear, I am not alive, but that doesn't mean my spirit can't write to you!" As you read, you felt tears beginning to prick up, but you refused to cry. You had gotten over this two years ago-and as promised-never spoke Tia Elena's name again. You picked up the letter and once more began reading.
"Of course there is much for us to catch up on, but why do you forget me? Juanita, I loved you like one of my own, but you were the one who never mourned me, or cherished my memory, or the memories we made together-as family. Is there something you would like to tell me sweetie? I'm always here, so don't think we can't chat every once in a while. Oh dearie you have grown so much over these past two years! Don't worry, I am not gone, and I don't think I'm ever going to forget you. Just look within yourself and you can find me-or just send me a letter-that will go faster. I love you...always. Sincerely, your tia, better than ever."
You had to re-read her letter four times, pausing at the end each time, being hit with so much at once. After putting the letter on the kitchen counter, you let curly brown hair fall to the cold stone marble, gazing at the box containing a scrabble set. Was this really the same set?
Carefullly, you opened the box, and there it was-a drawing of you at nine years old, holding Tia Elena's hand. It clearly resembled the drawing Micah, only 8 years old but an amazing artist, drew a year ago with the four in your own family. In that picture, Rosalie grinned happily while you and your husband stood still, a straight line etched across your faces. Why you had held back, even you yourself didn't know.
Suddenly, your husband came downstairs for his morning coffee. "What's that over there honey? It looks familiar-and do you know where my car keys are? I seemed to have lost them-" You cut him off mid-sentence, staring down at Tia Elena's smiling lips. You headed for the fridge and pulled out some tape from a nearby drawer.
"Oh hey hon. This is-um- a memoir. I'm going to tape it on the refrigerator, that's all. Enjoy your morning."
"That's the scrabble box, isn't that there?" He stared, transfixed, at the game board. You hugged him tightly and picked up the board.
"Yes, it sure is. Maybe one day we could play sometime-maybe teach it to the kids, right?" He nodded, and left for the kitchen. You went to get a pencil and a piece of paper from the living room and sat down once more, Tia Elena's note sitting beside you.
It was time for you to write a letter you should've written a long time ago-because love is not something easily broken. Love was like a scrabble game to you. A game where you made your own way- you made your own letters-and maybe played with someone you loved more than anything. Yes. Today was going to be a good day. A Scrabble game kind of day.